The circuit of Americas (CotA) in Austin, Texas was the sixth round of the 2017 WEC championship. It’s a recent track and very abrasive for the tyres. It is made up of twenty turns and has the special feature of turning counter clockwise. Another characteristic of the circuit is the 40 metre difference between the highest and lowest point of the circuit.
#26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 07, in the hands of Russian Roman Rusinov, British Alex Lynn and French Pierre Thiriet, started the week-end on a high note during the first free practice, the team topping the LMP2 leader board, a very positive and motivating way to start the week-end. G-Drive Racing team then fine-tuned the #26 in second and third free practice session, in preparation for the race to start at noon on Saturday. Two of the three driver line-up had to discover the circuit. Alex and Pierre were new to Austin COTA and were both very exited discovering the colourful, rhythmic track.
For qualifying, G-Drive Racing crew worked on a special tyre strategy: We gave priority to the race itself, and changed our qualification ‘habits’, said Xavier Combet Team Manager. Our Silver driver Pierre, started qualification with new tyres, while our Platinium finished it with Pierre’s set of tyres, a way to keep one full new set for the race.This was a good move, looking at the excessive tyre degradation in COTA.
As for race day, even though the final result is clearly disappointing, the team can be proud of its drivers. Alex started the race from fifth row (9th LMP2) and managed to move up 4th in the category, after a great trouble-free run. Pierre took over after 21 laps and did, as he said himself one of the greatest run of my career fighting with Silver and Gold drivers, but just after mid-race and a short time after Roman Rusinov had taken over, the car started to loose engine power. Technical team tried to find the solution, looked for explanations but could not solve the problem. #26 G-Drive Racing made it to the end of the race, because that’s what a race car should do, but the last runs were neither fun, nor exiting.
Xavier Combet, Team manager: »We had a good start this week-end in COTA, the team did a great job and Alex and Pierre were discovering the circuit, which is definitely not a problem for either one of them. They got into the rhythm really well and quick. We knew tyre wear was going to be a real issue, because of the grip and the very hot weather conditions. So we decided to test some things, and it could have worked out well. Alex and Pierre had done a wonderful job and the G-Drive was on the top of the LMP2. We had it to go for a podium. Unfortunately, when Roman took over, we experienced an important power loss and could not understand its origin. It’s a cruel issue of this race, but we will have to find out what the problem exactly was, in order to come back stronger for the coming races. »
Roman Rusinov (RUS): « It’s really a pity. We had a good team, good ideas and for the fourth time in a row, we were not able to take advantage of them because of an engine or ‘around the engine’ problem. I think it is disappointing and discouraging for everyone. We have to talk to our engine supplier to find a solution. »
Pierre Thiriet (FRA): »I am very happy about what I experienced in COTA on this new track to me, and the spicy, but fine decision we took for qualifying. It was a good move, and a very good idea, but unfortunately we were not able to benefit from it because of our engine power problem. What I will remember from the 6 Hours of COTA, is definitely my first run. I had a lot of fun, a lot of power and great fighting with Ho-Pin Tung (Jackie Chang Racing) and Julien Canal (Rebellion Vaillante), staying ahead of them. I think this run what the best ever I had in my driver career so far. Unfortunately my last run was one of the worst one, as we did not have any power anymore and just wanted to get the car to the chequered flag. So I have mixed feeling about COTA, but I will remember the great one first. »